The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Ukraine caught in the middle

Politics | How impeachment could threaten the future of a fledgling democracy
by Harvest Prude
Posted 12/05/19, 05:55 pm

WASHINGTON—While Democrats and Republicans are locked in a partisan impeachment battle in the nation’s capital, the country at the center of the debate, Ukraine, is locked in a decadeslong fight for its survival and its future. The politicization of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine as a result of impeachment could make matters worse for an already struggling country.

Ukraine declared independence from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 and made faltering steps toward a pro-democracy, pro-Western government. But internal dissent and outside pressure have held it back. As the country shook off communist rule, it lurched into crony capitalism: Government officials sold off state-owned industries to wealthy oligarchs who were their friends or family members. Ukraine has struggled ever since with corruption and entrenched poverty.

But in many ways, Ukraine’s greatest threat lies outside: an embittered Russian government that has never stopped viewing Ukraine as a necessary part of its empire. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, a peninsula in eastern Ukraine, in what would be the most direct conflict between East and West since the Cold War. The Obama administration and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia but did not offer military support or lethal weapons to Ukraine.

Despite international backlash, Russia kept meddling in Ukrainian affairs. It continues to support, politically and with weapons, an effort in 2014 by Russian separatists to form a semi-autonomous region in the eastern part of the country. The ongoing conflict has claimed more than 10,000 lives and led to the displacement of more than 1.5 million people.

Over the summer, the Trump administration blocked nearly $400 million in aid earmarked to reinforce the Ukrainian military. Congress had approved the aid in its 2019 federal budget to reinforce Ukrainian forces with weapons and U.S. training and advice.

On Sept. 11, the White House reversed course and began to release the money. In between, an anonymous administration official filed a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump, and Congress began an impeachment inquiry.

The question became whether the president withheld the aid to pressure Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to undertake investigations into the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of one of Trump’s most formidable rivals for the presidency in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden. Soon, Democrats and Republicans were tossing accusations across the aisle, with Ukraine as the political football. Democrats accused the president of leveraging the aid to advance his own domestic political interests. Republicans argued that Trump released the aid eventually and that he was rightly concerned about Ukrainian corruption.

A variety of experts say the battle in Congress oversimplifies or even misses the mark on the dire foreign policy situation in Ukraine.

Eric Fleury, an assistant professor of government and international relations at Connecticut College, said Ukraine is “in a crippled state right now. They have the troops of a far larger foreign power and their historical oppressor knocking on their door. … So this idea of military aid, especially, is for them a question of national survival.”

He added that Ukraine symbolizes the struggle between Western and Eastern civilizations.

“[The question] is whether Ukraine falls into the Russian orbit of authoritarian governance, ethnonationalism, of ethnicity being the determination of legitimacy rather than the rule of law,” Fleury said. “Russia wants to make absolutely sure [Ukraine] does not move in a more liberal, democratic, Western direction because in [Russin President Vladimir] Putin’s mind, that would be pointing a dagger straight into the heart of his regime.”

He noted that for Ukraine to become a model of Western values “right on Russia’s doorstep” would be a disaster for Putin.

Michael McKoy, an assistant professor of politics and international relations at Wheaton College, pointed out the problems associated with partisan politics infiltrating U.S. foreign policy.

“No country wants their security with the United States to be a partisan issue,” he said. “And now the Ukraine issue has become a partisan one. And what’s bad for Ukraine is good for Russia.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president has found himself between an anvil and a hammer. Zelensky has sought to highlight his country’s need while avoiding alienating either the White House or Democrats.

“We’re at war,” he said. “If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about quid pro quo.”

Associated Press/Photo by Cheryl Senter Associated Press/Photo by Cheryl Senter Pete Buttigieg at a campaign rally on Thursday in Henniker, N.H.

2020 update

With the Iowa caucuses just two months away, the field of Democratic presidential primary candidates is beginning to winnow itself. Sen. Kamala Harris of California abandoned her campaign this week, along with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Maryland. Former Vice President Joe Biden received the most support in this week’s national polls, leading the rest of the pack by double digits in some cases, according to RealClearPolitics. But in Iowa, where candidates will face their first test with voters, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is in the lead.

Buttigieg made headlines this week with an ad that began airing in South Carolina in which he quotes Matthew 25:35. “Whatever happened to I was hungry, and you fed me, I was a stranger and you welcomed me?” he asks, indicating his support for the poor and immigrants. Buttigieg also raised the anger of LGBT activists when a photo surfaced showing him volunteering as a Salvation Army bell ringer two years ago. Some liberals have labeled the charity “homophobic” because it adopts a Biblical view of marriage and sexuality, though it serves all people regardless of their sexual orientation. Buttigieg, who is gay, married to a man, and a member of an Episcopalian church, had not yet responded to the criticism as of Thursday afternoon. —Lynde Langdon

Associated Press/Photo by Elijah Nouvelage Associated Press/Photo by Elijah Nouvelage Kelly Loeffler

Georgia gets a new senator

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, on Wednesday picked a businesswoman and political newcomer for an upcoming U.S. Senate opening. Kelly Loeffler co-owns the Atlanta Dream WNBA franchise and is CEO of a financial services company. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said she was “a terrific appointment.” She will succeed Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson when he steps down at the end of the month due to health issues.

Loeffler will become Georgia’s first female senator in 100 years, and only the second ever. President Donald Trump pushed for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., to get the seat. But he will still find a political ally in Loeffler.

“What people will learn about me is that I’m a proud patriot, a devoted wife, & a devout Christian,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “A life-long Republican who is unapologetically pro-2nd Amendment, pro-military, pro-wall, & pro-Trump. I am strongly pro-life & make no apologies for my conservative values.” —Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Nunes sues CNN

U.S. Rep. Devin G. Nunes, R-Calif., filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN in federal court in Virginia on Tuesday. He is seeking more than $435 million in damages from the news outlet, which he called the “mother of fake news.”

“CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony,” he said.

CNN reported that Nunes traveled to Vienna and met with former Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin to talk about former Vice President Joe Biden. Nunes said that’s not true, and neither is the claim that he communicated in December 2018 with Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who was arrested in October on charges of money laundering. —R.L.A.

Hunter accepts plea

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty on Tuesday to misusing campaign money. The congressman denied wrongdoing for more than a year before changing his plea in federal court in San Diego.

“No figure, regardless of what office they occupy, should be allowed in this country to cry witch hunt or fake news and attempt to deflect their criminal wrongdoings,” prosecutor Phil Halpern said.

Prosecutors accuse Hunter and his wife, Margaret, of misusing $250,000. His wife pleaded guilty earlier this year. Hunter declined to say whether he would resign. —R.L.A.

Read more of The Stew Sign up for The Stew email
Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.

Read more from this writer


You must be a WORLD Member and logged in to the website to comment.
  • Katie
    Posted: Fri, 12/06/2019 10:37 am

    Editor: Internal descent or internal dissent?

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Fri, 12/06/2019 04:15 pm

    Thank you for pointing out the error. We have corrected it.

    Posted: Fri, 12/06/2019 03:04 pm

    Republicans continue to get thrown in jail and Dems just continue business as usual. 

    Someone needs to go after Dems. They should NOT get a pass. 

    Posted: Fri, 12/06/2019 03:06 pm

    CNN should NOT get a pass on their FAKE NEWS. 

    I just hope he gets a judge who wasn't appointed by Clinton or Obama, and/or a jury that has Trump Derangement Syndrome.

    Posted: Fri, 12/06/2019 03:12 pm

    How long is the Ukraine war going to go on. Will America be called upon to support this war until Putin dies?

    Does NO other country or the U.N. feel compelled to support the Ukraines in this war? 

    Posted: Fri, 12/06/2019 03:15 pm

    Throwing a Representative and/or wife in jail just seems like a waste of taxpayer money.

    Why not make them pay it back and do community service? Instead we get to pay again by housing them in jail with criminals.

    That will teach us. What? To be a Dem. instead so we won't get thrown in jail?

  • JM
    Posted: Sat, 12/07/2019 08:49 am

    This article on Ukraine is completely one sided and biased, and reflects World's bias against Orthodox Christians and the favoring of Israel and even Muslims over fellow Christians.  There is no mention of the fact that Ukraine and Russia share a long cultural heritage of Orthodoxy, and have held the line against Muslim agression since Timur the Lame, and expecially since the fall of Constantinople.  The Maidan coup, promoted by the west, especially by the US, and which threw the country into its current chaos and caused the seperatist movement in the eastern and mostly Russian populated part of the country is just ignored, as if it never happened.  The broken US promise not to extend NATO into previously Warsaw pact countries is also ignored.  As is the fact that Kruschev never had proper authority to give Crimea to Ukraine in the first place.  Was any one really stupid enough to think Putin would allow NATO to take over Sevastopol?   Is self determination only allowed when it is anti Russia?  Recently one of your authors even took sides with Muslims in Kosovo against Orthodox Christians.  3000 bodies were in mass graves from fire fights between Serbian police and the KLA, a radical Muslim terrorist group.  We knew that at the beginning.  The Clintons lied and claimed hundreds of thousands, and used that as an excuse to bomb christian Serbia to force the abandoning of christians in Kosovo, and the subsequent destruction of the christian community.  Putin  is the only world leader that cares about Orthodox christians, obviously, World does not.  Orthodoxy is the soul of Russia, and Ukraine, as Solzhenitsyn and Putin recognize(d), they both desire(d) to rebuild that soul, and not import our recent and innovative Western heresies, which deny that the true Israel is the church, and hold the completely unbiblical view that Russia is Gog and Magog and thus the great eschatological enemy.  US policy supports Israel, which bombed the US Liberty and gave us Epstein to blackmail our deep state leaders, but has destroyed the christian communities of Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya, and attempted that destruction in Egypt and Syria.  All at the instigation of pro Israel neocons, many of them Jewish.  When did Jews not persecute christians when they had the power?  As they have Palestinian christians in the modern state of Israel.  Syrian christians know that without Assad and Putin, they would all be dead, but none of this will ever appear in World Magazine.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Sat, 12/07/2019 11:11 pm

    "Buttigieg, who is gay, married to a man, and a member of an Episcopalian church, had not yet responded to the criticism as of Thursday afternoon."

    should be:

    "Buttigieg, who is gay, 'married' to a man, and a member of an Episcopalian church, had not yet responded to the criticism as of Thursday afternoon."